As discussed on Monday I have decided I want to leave the
The reshuffle you are making today provides the opportunity to
As I have explained I have found it increasingly difficult to
balance having a young family in the North East with the demands of
being a cabinet minister.
I know this is something you understand and I am grateful for
all the support you have shown me in respect (of) my decision.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve in the government for
six years, but I have already missed a good bit of my children
growing up and I don’t want to miss any more.
It has come down to a choice between my career in politics and
my life with my family.
This is now the right time to go. Not just for Ruth and the
children, but for me.
The NHS is now moving forwards. The money is going in and the
reforms that you and I have argued for are making an impact.
As you know, this has been a difficult decision for me to take
and I leave with real sadness.
It is not a political decision for I support you totally in what
you are trying to do. It is entirely personal.
It has been a real privilege to work with people in the health
service and with our colleagues in government.
Above all, it has been an honour to have served you as prime
Your strength of leadership and sense of purpose are a huge
asset for our party and are achieving great things for our
I have no doubt you will continue to do so and I know we will
I wish you, my successor, and all my colleagues the very best as
we continue to make the changes necessary to prepare Britain for
Tony Blair’s reply:
I want to thank you for what you have done for the government,
and also for the straightforward way in which you communicated your
decision to leave.
When you came to see me on Monday I was obviously very sorry to
hear that you wanted to leave the government, though I understand
the reasons and respect your decision.
I know how much your family means to you, and this is clearly a
decision you have taken together.
As secretary of state for health, and before that as chief
secretary to the treasury, you have made a major contribution to
the success of this government.
The NHS has clearly turned the corner. On every measure, waiting
times are now lower than in 1997.
Cancer, cardiac and other key services are improving markedly.
The number of nurses and other key professionals is rapidly
As importantly, there is now a clear route map for NHS reform.
Power and resources are being devolved to primary care trusts and
the new NHS foundation hospitals.
Patient choice, purality of provision, and reform of working
practices are all being developed.
These are all reforms which I regard as vital, and I want to
thank you for having made such a major contribution to their
The government, and your successor, will continue to pursue them
with vigour and determination.
I wish you, Ruth and your family every success and happiness in